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(Left to right) Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Porter, Sheriff Sean Casey and Clerk of Circuit Court Greg Parks outside the Alexandria Courthouse (courtesy photo)

Getting your criminal record expunged in Alexandria just got a lot easier.

Alexandria Sheriff Sean Casey, Clerk of Circuit Court Greg Parks, and Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Porter announced today that their offices have coordinated efforts to create a “one-stop, limited cost, process for all those seeking expungements of Alexandria court and police records.”

The expungement process can now be completed for free at the Alexandria Courthouse (520 King Street), and are granted when the petitioner was acquitted of an incident, the charge was not prosecuted or if the petitioner was granted an absolute pardon.

“I am committed to ensuring that all Alexandrians have fair access to the expungement process, and waiving the service of process and its fee will remove one barrier to those seeking to clear their records,” Porter said in a release.

Expungements are handled in the clerk’s office. When a record is expunged, the record is removed from public access and sealed for three years, after which it is destroyed.

“I am extremely pleased to have the support of Sheriff Casey and Commonwealth’s Attorney Porter in making the expungement process more convenient, and in limiting the out-of-pocket expenses for applicants,” Parks said.

As part of the agreement, the Sheriff’s Office will take fingerprints at the courthouse at no cost to the petitioner.

“Fingerprinting is critical to the expungement process, and the Sheriff’s Office will provide that service to Alexandrians at no cost to make the process easier and faster,” Casey said.

An expungement clinic was conducted last year, resulting in more than 30 criminal charges expunged. Another clinic is anticipated for “early this year,” according to the three offices.

Applicants can get assistance from the Alexandria Bar Association‘s lawyer referral service for $55.

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Police at a sudden death investigation on E. Reed Avenue (staff photo by James Cullum)

A 20-year-old Alexandria man was sentenced to 10 years in prison, all of them suspended, and five years probation today after the unintentional shooting and killing of his best friend in Lynhaven earlier this year.

Junior Josue Espinal Calix pleaded guilty last month to involuntary manslaughter for the shooting death of  his best friend, 21-year-old Nabel Christopher Chavez. Alexandria Circuit Court Judge James C. Clark announced the sentence after a brief bench trial.

“I don’t think anybody questions the sincerity of your remorse or the sincerity of your intention to do better with your life,” Clark told Calix. “I think that it is impossible for the court to impose a sentence commensurate with the loss that Chris’ family has experienced and to a certain extent what you and your family have experienced.”

Calix admitted to killing Chavez in an interrogation video presented as evidence by his defense attorney, Sebastian Norton. In the video, Calix breaks down into sobs as he recounts the event in his home on E. Reed Avenue– drinking Jack Daniel’s whiskey, smoking marijuana and playing video games with Chavez. Then, as he did with regularity, Calix said, he took out his Polymer80 9mm pistol, which he thought was empty, pointed it at Chavez’s head and pulled the trigger.

Chavez died instantly and it was Calix who called 911.

Calix spent two weeks in jail after the shooting and was released on bond. He’s since been living substance-free, Norton said, and has gotten a job at a local pizzeria, where he works with the victim’s younger brother.

Calix apologized to the victim’s family and his family.

“I will never get another friend, another brother like him,” Calix told the court. “He was such a great person.”

Calix’s mother, Sonia, testified that her son and Chavez were like brothers.

“He’s changed a lot,” Sonia Caliz said. “He’s been working very hard and I haven’t had any problems since he got out (of jail).”

Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Harsh Vorganti said that the shooting was unintentional, not accidental. Vorganti is part of the Commonwealth Attorney’s property crimes unit, and generally tries cases involving white collar offenses and reviewing financial records.

“The defendant may not have intended to kill Nabel, but he did do so,” Vorganti said. “It was not an accident that he pointed a gun at Nabel’s head. It was not an accident that he pulled the trigger.”

Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Porter, however, noted the “accidental” nature of the incident in a release last month.

“Nabel suffered one gunshot wound to the right side of his face and was pronounced dead on the scene,” Porter said. “Evidence confirmed the accidental nature of the shooting.”

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Police at a sudden death investigation on E. Reed Avenue (staff photo by James Cullum)

Alexandria resident Junior Josue Espinal Calix, 20, pleaded guilty last week to involuntary manslaughter after accidentally shooting 21-year-old Nabel Christopher Chavez earlier this year.

Calix said he frequently played with the firearm and aimed it at Chavez, thinking it was unloaded, according to a release from Commonealth’s Attorney Bryan Porter.

According to Porter:

The investigation showed that in the early afternoon of February 17, 2023, the Defendant shot Nabel in the head with a Polymer80 9mm pistol. The shooting happened in a private residence on E. Reed Avenue in the City of Alexandria.

The Defendant and Nabel, who were acquainted with one another, were inside of the residence. The investigation revealed the shooting occurred after the Defendant intentionally pointed a gun he believed was unloaded at Nabel and pulled the trigger. The Defendant told the police he frequently engaged in “play” with the firearm, that the shooting occurred while he was “playing” with it, and that he believed he had emptied the chamber of the firearm and removed the magazine prior to the shooting and did not know how a round remained in the chamber.

Nabel suffered one gunshot wound to the right side of his face and was pronounced dead on the scene. Evidence confirmed the accidental nature of the shooting.

Calix was released on bond pending sentencing, which is scheduled for a hearing on Dec. 21. The maximum penalty for involuntary manslaughter is 10 years.

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The Franklin P. Backus Courthouse at 520 King Street in Alexandria (staff photo by James Cullum)

A Virginia man was sentenced to a year-and-a-half in prison this week for embezzling more than a half million dollars from ABM Industries.

John Babsa, a 34-year-old former manager of the Northern Virginia branch of New York-based ABM Industries, pleaded guilty to one count of felony embezzlement at his July 27 trial. The former manager also paid $583,000 in restitution directly to ABM Industries via his attorney.

Babsa was hired as an account manager by ABM Industries in 2013, and oversaw payroll services for subcontractors, according to court documents. His work included getting reimbursed payroll and bonuses for ABM subcontractors from the company, and from 2015 to 2019, he received payroll and bonuses for five contractors he created and who never existed.

Babsa created shadow bank accounts for the fake employees, using the personal information of family members to fill in the blanks. He then deposited the checks into the accounts.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Porter said that the crime was not a “fleeting moment of weakness” on Babsa’s part, who treated ABM Industries as “his personal bank.”

“When a valued employee of a corporation abuses his position for his own gain, more than money is lost,” Porter said. “So is the trust of the owners and other employees of the company. It is unusual for a person convicted of financial crimes to be sent to the penitentiary, and the significant sentence handed down by the Court in this case is illustrative of the gravity of this crime.”

An additional 10-and-a-half years of the Babsa’s sentence was suspended, provided that he perform supervised probation for three years, have no contact with ABM Industries and have uniform good behavior for 20 years after he is released from prison.

The case was investigated by the Alexandria Police Department and prosecuted by Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Harsh Voruganti.

Babsa is being held in the William G. Truesdale Alexandria Adult Detention Center and will be transferred to the Virginia Department of Corrections.

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The Franklin P. Backus Courthouse in Alexandria

Multiple people from DC, Maryland and Virginia have been charged with felonies in Alexandria within the last several months as part of an alleged scheme to get driver’s and commercial driver’s licenses with forged documents, ALXnow has learned.

On May 5, 2022, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles discovered fraudulent out-of-state driving records being used to get driver’s licenses and commercial driver’s licenses, according to a recently released search warrant affidavit filed in the Alexandria Circuit Court by DMV’s law enforcement division.

That was when an “observant DMV customer service representative” alerted DMV law enforcement of suspected wrongdoing, said Pam Goheen, assistant commissioner for communications for Virginia DMV.

Seven people have been arrested in Alexandria in connection to the ongoing investigation, according to Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Porter.

“The case involves charges in multiple jurisdictions in Virginia, and obviously the defendants reside outside of Virginia,” Porter said. “As this is an ongoing investigation, my office cannot comment on the evidence, the charges, or our trial strategy. Anyone charged is presumed to be innocent and the Commonwealth bears the burden of proving every element of any charged offense beyond a reasonable doubt in a competent court of law.”

As of April 3, DMV has uncovered 94 cases of fraudulently issued licenses from altered driving records and altered residency documents, according to the search warrant affidavit. Additionally, those arrested referred investigators to an Instagram account that advertised the documents for sale.

“The seller required the purchasers to pay via Cash App and the documents would be emailed (and) printed off by the purchaser,” the search warrant affidavit said. “One individual provided screenshots of the advertisement from the Instagram account as well as instant messages describing how to obtain the Virginia license and which DMV office to go to.”

DMV found that transcripts were changed to show that the person listed had a valid driver’s or commercial driver’s license from the jurisdiction they live in “when in fact they did not,” according to the search warrant affidavit.

Goheen said that the investigation is ongoing. She did not say which DMV locations were targeted, except that some of the offenses occurred in several regions, including Northern Virginia.

“DMV has canceled licenses that were obtained illegally in this case, and additional arrests and charges are expected,” Goheen said. “It is inappropriate at this time to provide details of the activity until the investigation is complete and arrest warrants are served. However, DMV has taken steps to prevent future instances of the activity.”

So far, a 30-year-old man from Capital Heights, Maryland, is the only suspect found guilty. The man was initially charged with obtaining a license by fraud, a felony punishable by up to a year in prison and/or a $2500 fine, but the charge was downgraded to unauthorized use of DMV materials, which is a misdemeanor. He was found guilty on Jan. 24 and sentenced to 30 days in jail, all of which was suspended. He was also charged $214, which is now past due, according to court records.

Each suspect arrested in Alexandria was released on bond, or on their own recognizance, according to court records.

The other suspects include:

  • A 28-year-old D.C. man — Charged with obtaining a license by fraud and forging public records. The offense allegedly occurred on October 29, 2022, he was arrested on April 12 and goes to court to have an attorney appointed to him on May 19
  • A 29-year-old Hyattsville, Maryland, woman — Charged with obtaining a license by fraud and forging public records. The offense allegedly occurred on January, 19 2023, she was arrested on Feb. 2 and has a preliminary hearing on May 26
  • A 38-year-old Waldorf, Maryland, woman — Charged with obtaining a license by fraud and forging public records. The offense allegedly occurred on May 22, 2022, she was arrested on March 26 and has a preliminary hearing on May 26
  • A 28-year-old D.C. man — Charged with obtaining a license by fraud. The offense allegedly occurred on October 22.2022, he was arrested on March 15 and has a preliminary hearing on May 24
  • A 41-year-old Clinton, Maryland, man — Charged with forgery and obtaining a license by fraud. The offense allegedly occurred on April 24, which is the same day he was arrested. His preliminary hearing is on June 23
  • A 59-year-old D.C. man — Charged with obtaining a license by fraud. The offense allegedly occurred on March 3, he was arrested on April 26 and goes to court for an arraignment on May 10
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(Updated 5:30 p.m.) A 45-year-old Fairfax County man was sentenced to 10 years in prison last Thursday for a 2022 crash on Duke Street that killed a Fairfax County man and injured four others.

Carlos Kami Adar McKethan pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and driving under the influence of drugs in connection with the death of 39-year-old Bizuayehu Bulti on the night of Feb. 22, according to Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Porter.

McKethan, who drove a silver SUV, was high on Phencyclidine (PCP) when he attempted to pass a bus at 110 miles per hour.

“McKethan did not slow down as he swerved around Mr. Bulti’s vehicle into oncoming traffic,” Porter said. “McKethan struck the back of Mr. Bulti’s vehicle, sending it crashing into another vehicle and spinning further down Duke Street. McKethan’s SUV spun out in the opposite direction, crashing into two vehicles that had been stopped at the westbound light.”

Bulti, who left behind a family he was supporting in Ethiopia, was driving home from his job at Virginia Hospital Center when the crash occurred.

The speed was verified by the Event Data Recorder in McKethan’s vehicle and his blood contained 0.04 mg/L of PCP, according to court records.

“This significant sentence imposed in this case holds the defendant accountable for his extremely reckless actions,” Porter said. “PCP is a dangerous drug, and the combination of drug use and immense speed caused a tragedy in this case. My thoughts are with Mr. Bulti’s family and with the other citizens who were injured as a result of the defendant’s crimes.”

Five vehicles were totaled in the crash, which occurred at around 11:50 p.m in the 3200 block of Duke Street. The crash left one person critically injured, two people seriously injured and two people with minor injuries, according to the Alexandria Police Department.

Porter continued, “Mr. Bulti was freed from the vehicle within minutes, but he soon succumbed to his injuries. Four additional victims suffered injuries, and all five cars were totaled.”

McKethan was sentenced to 20 years in prison, with 10 years suspended on condition of supervised probation for five years and uniform good behavior for 10 years.

He is currently held in the William G. Truesdale Adult Detention Center and will be transferred to the Virginia Department of Corrections.

Image via Google Maps

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Enoc Cruz Villafuerte, charged with the murder of his brother Jonathan Cruz Villafuerte (photo via Alexandria Sheriff’s Office)

A 23-year-old West End man pleaded guilty today to a two-count murder indictment alleging that he fatally shot his brother with a rifle.

Enoc Cruz Villafuerte pleaded guilty to one count of murder in the second degree and another count of shooting in the commission of murder in connection to the death of his 24-year-old brother Jonathan Cruz Villafuerte.

Villafuerte, who is being held without bond in the Alexandria jail, admitted to shooting his brother in the chest with a .380 “assault-style” rifle in the living room of their father’s apartment in the 1400 block of N. Beauregard Street on the morning of June 6, 2022, according to Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Porter.

“There were no signs of a fight or struggle between Enoc and Jonathan, and Enoc confirmed with police that he and Jonathan were not arguing or fighting prior to him shooting Jonathan,” Porter said in a release. “Jonathan suffered one gunshot wound to the right side of his chest and was pronounced dead on-scene.”

Villafuerte will be sentenced on April 20. He faces a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison for the murder in the second-degree charge and a maximum of five years in prison for the shooting in the commission of murder charge.

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Alexandria Police lights (staff photo by James Cullum)

After a lengthy trial, a hung jury couldn’t reach a verdict against a 24-year-old California man accused of murdering a man in the West End in 2020, and the Commonwealth’s Attorney will retry the case in February.

On Thursday (Dec. 15), the jury remained deadlocked on whether Ahmed Mohammed Shareef should be charged with murder or manslaughter in the Nov. 2020 shooting death of 23-year old Yousef Omar. The jury did, however, find Shareef guilty of racketeering with 20 others for operating a drug trafficking organization between the D.C. Metro area and Los Angeles, California.

Shareef is claiming self-defense and pleaded not guilty to all charges. He will be retried for the murder charge on February 16, Alexandria’s Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Porter told ALXnow.

“The jury trial was extremely lengthy,” Porter said. “It started the very beginning of November, and was a six-week trial. At the conclusion of the trial, the jury convicted him of racketeering, but was unable to reach a verdict on the murder charge. The case has been continued to February 16.”

Sentencing is being withheld for the racketeering charges until the conclusion of the upcoming murder trial. Shareef faces life in prison for the murder charge and up to 40 years for the racketeering charge.

Omar was found shot multiple times in the driver’s seat of a 2016 silver Mercedes E350 on the afternoon of Saturday, Nov. 17, 2020. A firearm was found near Omar’s body, as well as numerous shell casings, indicating that he fired at his attacker. A half-hour after the shooting, Shareef checked himself into Howard University Hospital with a gunshot wound, police said in a search warrant affidavit.

The investigation of the drug trafficking organization resulted in the arrest of 20 individuals, including Shareef, and the seizure of $500,000 worth of marijuana, nearly $275,000 in cash, 23 firearms, cocaine and other drugs, digital scales, money counters, fake identifications and a number of vehicles.

“The investigation also revealed that the likely motive (of the murder) was over an unresolved drug debt and potential interference by the victim to pry customers away from the (drug trafficking organization),” police said in a search warrant affidavit.

A witness told police that they saw Shareef and Omar in the Mercedes, parked across the street from the Newport Village apartment complex near Fort Ward Park.

The witness saw Shareef “exit the vehicle and proceed to shoot the victim multiple times as he sat in the driver’s seat, striking him multiple times,” according to the search warrant affidavit. “The suspect then ran to a waiting vehicle, entering the front passenger seat and fleeing the scene.”

The incident was the third and final homicide of 2020.

A police investigation determined that Shareef and his co-conspirators ferried marijuana from Los Angeles to the D.C. Metro area in large suitcases on commercial airliners. In many instances, the suspect who checked the baggage in California would not get on flights and the bags, with different names on identification tags, would be picked up by other suspects in Virginia. The marijuana in the luggage was found in vacuum-sealed bags.

“The method included top tier traffickers purchasing flights for individuals and packing large suitcases with other materials to conceal large quantities of marijuana, ensuring that the bag was checked approximately 50 minutes before the flight left and would often be picked up by different individuals at DCA (Washington Reagan International Airport) and IAD (Dulles International) airports in the Commonwealth,” police said in the search warrant affidavit.

(The story previously said incorrectly that Shareef is defending himself. That is not accurate. He is instead claiming self-defense.)

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A man acquitted by reason of insanity for a brutal stabbing death in Old Town has been ordered to stay off all social media except LinkedIn.

The news came Thursday afternoon, after 38-year-old Pankaj Bhasin was ordered by the Alexandria Circuit Court to stay off the websites after lying about himself and his whereabouts during a period that he was in prison for murder.

Bhasin was conditionally released from the Department of Behavioral Health and Development Services in May — four years after stabbing 65-year-old Brad Jackson to death with a box cutter. Bhasin said that he thought Jackson was a werewolf, and stabbed him 53 times. He was conditionally released on May 27, 2022, after being diagnosed as bipolar by five doctors and found not guilty by reason of insanity in July 2019.

After his release, Bhasin opened a Facebook page where he listed that he was in India at the time of the murder, according to court records. He also created dating application profiles and wrote that he’d recently returned from traveling for two years.

“I’m an easy going adventurer who believes in a universal connection with all and love to explore n try new things,” Bhasin wrote on a dating app, according to the motion to amend the terms of his conditional release. “Also, recently getting back from two years of travel…”

Bhasin also wrote that he is interested in “travel, kayaking, dancing, photography, camping, reading, concert n all things fun,” and that he has an ENFP-A personality — someone who is extraverted, intuitive, feeling, and perceiving.

Bhasin’s attorney, Peter Greenspun, sent out a statement that Bhasin is “doing extremely well,” but did not discuss the decision of the court. He said that Bhasin is remorseful for Jackson’s death.

“Mr. Bhasin is not on any social media or dating sites,” Greenspun said. “He has and will continue to follow all of the directions of the City of Alexandria Circuit Court.”

A review hearing is scheduled for December to assess Bhasin’s release.

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A 21-year-old Alexandria man was sentenced to 20 years in prison for the Sept. 30, 2020, murder of John Pope in the West End.

On June 30, Tavon Marquis Lanier was sentenced to 73 years in prison — with all but 20 years suspended — for his convictions of second-degree murder, two counts of using a firearm in commission of a felony, grand larceny and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

When released from prison, Lanier will be on supervised probation for 10 years.

Pope was shot to death on Sept. 30 at his home in the 5900 block of Quantrell Avenue in the Mayflower Square apartment complex. He later died at the hospital. It was the second murder (of three) that occurred in Alexandria in 2020.

“The investigation showed that on September 30, 2020, Lanier shot and killed John Pope in his apartment located on Quantrell Avenue while attempting to steal prescription drugs lawfully prescribed to Pope,” Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Porter said in a release. “After the shooting, Lanier took the prescription drugs and made good his escape.”

Lanier was released on bond just eight days before Pope was killed. He was arrested on Sept. 22 for for allegedly breaking into his girlfriend’s apartment, stalking and threatening her and was released on bond by the magistrate’s office.

Lanier is held at the Alexandria Adult Detention Center and will be transferred to the Virginia Department of Corrections.

Photo via Facebook

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